Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

The elusive origin of OK

OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word

Epicures of etymologies could scarcely ask for a more delicious dish than OK. Yes, OK—America’s greatest contribution to the English language, and the most successful export from English to other languages around the world. By its looks and sound, OK is an odd concoction, with little resemblance to anything else in the language. And by […]

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Cheer yourself up with Oxford Dictionaries Online


The third Monday in January is allegedly the most depressing day of the year. We can see why: Christmas festivities are but a memory (apart from maybe an extra inch or two round the waist), we’ve just given up on our New Year’s resolutions, it feels like a long time since payday, and it’s been […]

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Are there really hundreds of Eskimo words for snow?


Debunking a word myth Having just moved to Toronto, Ontario from Berkeley, California, one thing that is on my mind, as well as on my front yard, is snow. Crunching through the drifts on my way to the subway, or when I walk my dog Dexter, gives me a lot of time to contemplate the […]

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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wordbook


Many dictionaries and guides are careful to warn readers about the difference between a faun and a fawn. However, anyone familiar with the tales of C. S. Lewis is unlikely to confuse these two shy inhabitants of woodland glades, since the goat-footed, part-human faun of classical Roman mythology is the first strange creature we encounter […]

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The OUP UK Word of the Year is … ‘big society’

Word of the Year 2010

Let’s hear a woot (or not?) for the Big Society! Each year, as the announcement of Oxford’s Word of the Year approaches, I’m reminded of some words from the playwright Dennis Potter: ‘the trouble with words is that you never know whose mouth they’ve been in’. I sometimes wonder whether that’s why I like new […]

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Nom nom! 2010 was a deliciously rich year for our language

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Popular culture . . . In 2010, much of our uneasy fascination turned from zombie banks to plain old zombies. Well, maybe not “plain old.” It’s been a phenomenal year for zombies, who have commanded huge markets in the entertainment industry and a seemingly insatiable fan base. As zombies roamed the planet, another breed of […]

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Refudiate: An understandable mistake?

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